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Graham Construction: A Model of Successful Digital Transformation

 

Originally aired on 11/09/2021

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Derrick Teal:

And welcome to this webinar, Graham Construction: A Model of Successful Digital Transformation. This ENR event is brought to you by InEight. Hi, I’m Derrick Teal, content deployment manager at ENR, and I’m their moderator for today’s presentation. Thank you for joining us. Our presenters for this webinar are, Rick Deans EVP of industry engagement at InEight, and Matt Gramblicka, VP of IT and enterprise applications at Graham Construction. Since 1998, Rick Deans has worked with InEight customers in more than 35 countries to help identify innovative solutions that address their biggest project management pain points. As executive Vice President of industry engagement, Rick leads InEight efforts to engage with its most strategic customers through the industry advisory group.

Derrick Teal:

And Matt Gramblicka, has dedicated his career defining innovative and cost effective IT and enterprise application solutions to support business challenges. His focus on system thinking integration and business value has led to a proven track record of delivery and continuous improvement. As VP of IT and enterprise applications, he’s committed to delivering the next generation digital solutions at Graham Construction. And I’ll rejoin our presenters at the end for the Q&A portion. So don’t forget to submit your questions and you can do that by typing your question into the Q&A section on your webinar console, and you can do that throughout the presentation. And now, I’ll hand things over to, Rick, to kick things off.

Rick Deans:

Well, thank you very much, Derrick. It’s great to see you again. And I’m thrilled to be here with one of our favorite customers, Graham Construction. And Matt, I know we had a little bit of an introduction there from Derrick, but tell us a little bit about your background specifically with Graham, how long you’ve been with the organization and some of your objectives and some of the initiatives that you’ve been working on?

Matt Gramblicka:

Yeah, thanks for having me today. I’ve been with Graham a long time, on the slide there, it says 18 plus years. But I actually started as a summer student a lot of years before that. Got a little bit of experience in construction, went off to do some other things in IT, came back in 2003 and it’s been a journey of system improvements and upgrades since then with a real focus on trying to make our industry a little bit more productive. Making sure we have cost certainty when we’re doing projects and things like that, and trying to make our field as efficient as we can.

Rick Deans:

No, that’s great stuff. And tell us a little bit about Graham Construction as well.

Matt Gramblicka:

Yeah. We’re growing, we’re 2 billion close to 3 billion in annual revenue right now, 1700 employees and continuing to grow. We’re serving the Canadian from West Coast, basically through Ontario and a big portion of our growth is actually happening in the Northwest United States. We do projects of all complexity in sizes. We still do a lot of smaller work that is where we you know, train our new, new project managers, engineers, et cetera, on projects that are manageable in size and scope. And we’re doing a lot more of, what we’d call maybe the mega projects that the scope is quite significant. Lots of experience in all types and sizes of projects.

Rick Deans:

No, that’s great. And we’re going to talk about that in a little bit more detail, but I want to go back to something you mentioned earlier, and that is to improve efficiency within construction or specifically within your construction organization. If we look back in time, construction was really a leader in innovation. There were some really great projects that were undertaken that were really masterpieces for their day. But as we peel the layers back, we’ve seen other industries really jump out in front of construction in terms of the amount of value per work hour added. Some examples we’ve got on screen agriculture, manufacturing, retail, those have all really leaped ahead. And you can see that the value add per work hour go ranges from agriculture over 1500 hours, retail and manufacturing hovering around 700. And then here comes construction, bringing up the rear end with about a value of six in terms of value added per hour. What are some of the things that you’ve seen maybe that are starting to buck that trend a little bit, Matt?

Matt Gramblicka:

Yeah. It is sad to see construction where it is. I’ll speak to that a little bit. Part of it in my opinion is that every time we do something it’s new and it’s potentially different than something we’ve done in the past. And you look at agriculture, retail, manufacturing, a lot of times it’s about repeating things and then just being more efficient in the ways that you repeat those things. Yes, there’s definitely an opportunity within our business, it’s to find those things that are repeatable that we can tap into, the things we have to do every time. Maybe there’s a lot of paper based things that we’re doing that we can automate. And it’s tackling those things one at a time until we get the efficiencies. And until you take care of the entire process and put efficiencies in from start to finish, you’re not going to get the full gain. It is a journey for sure. And you have to pick away at it.

Rick Deans:

No, and you bring up some great points. We’ll explore some of those in a little bit more detail during our time together. This is another look at that set of numbers that we had on the screen earlier. I think for those of us who are in this business, the good news is that we are starting to see some adoption of technology. I remember when I was coming up through the ranks, technology always seemed like it was a cost that companies were trying to control and to spend as little bit on it as possible. But now I think, there is a mindset that it can be a strategic investment for certain firms and just like investments that are made in training or personnel or equipment. There’s an expectation for a return on that investment as well. We’re certainly excited about that.

Rick Deans:

As you roll technology out to your various projects and your various project team members, I’m really excited by what I see on this graphic without giving too much away, I identify with more toward the left side of that scale. But you’ve got some interesting data presented here. Maybe you could talk to us a little bit about how Graham Construction is, how the demographics are broken down within your organization and what challenges and opportunities does that create for you as someone who is responsible for providing technology to your workforce?

Matt Gramblicka:

Yeah. I was quite fascinated when I first saw the data on this and there’s really two camps. We’ve got our office workers that are in our typical functions, back office functions of finance, HR, IT, supply chain, et cetera. And then we’ve got our field operations. And if you look at demographics and the trends that we have, if you go back to the dot-com boom and bust, that actually, if you look at IT or technical type workforce, that really push people away from it. You look at a gap and potentially the work force, et cetera, that would be that generation that was somewhat missing on the technical side. And if you look at it from a construction perspective, you’ve got a lot of our field supervision probably in that boomer era. And then there was a gap where a lot of the Gen X ended up being, maybe more office type workers, et cetera.

Matt Gramblicka:

What’s exciting now is that if you look at this from what the workforce looks like, our Gen Y and Gen Z makes up the biggest audience, I guess, we have within our company. That changes things, especially when we’re trying to figure out how to communicate to people, how to attract workers, et cetera. You can look there. There’s a lot of stereotypes and assumptions. I think a lot of boomers are tech savvy and really embrace it. And our key supporters of it. Take this with the majority of what you have to deal with versus what is an absolute. But there’s different ways that we have to communicate things to people. What that medium is, some people just tell me the facts, that’s all I need. Others tell me everything, and I’ll swipe through it all and figure out what’s important for me.

Matt Gramblicka:

Yeah, it’s quite fascinating. I think it is good to know that a lot of times when maybe we get a response from people when we’re trying to implement new tools, new technologies, they’re used to doing it this way. They’re not going to change. Well, they might actually be the minority now. And the larger bulk of workers is maybe the group we need to be servicing and maybe they don’t have as yet. But we have to find a way to tap into that.

Rick Deans:

What really jumped out at me on this were a couple of things. Number one, clearly 80 plus percent of your workforce was born after 1996, which is amazing. I hadn’t really put it in perspective like that. It also answered another question for me, and that is, why can’t people just email me? Why am I getting these IMS? Why am I getting these chats? Why am I getting notifications on social media? Then this really helped me understand that that is just the preferred communications medium for a lot of these folks that were born, I’m not going to say what I was doing in 1996, but it’s interesting. It’s interesting the way that, that really presents itself. I thank you for bringing that to the table that really opened my eyes up quite a bit just understanding the demographics. And clearly, that’s the key. If you’re a change agent within your organization and you’re really being a champion for, in this case, digital transformation, it’s so important to communicate to people in a medium and in a manner that they’re comfortable with. The [crosstalk 00:11:34] messages received and absorbed as well.

Matt Gramblicka:

For sure. And the other thing, obviously, COVID has changed the landscape and forced us to rethink how everything is. Maybe you can’t have as many people on a project site. How do you manage a project site remotely? That’s one thing we have to consider. Not only where we do the work, how we do the work, but when we do the work. And some of the things we’re finding with, maybe in the Generation Y, Generation Z is, I’ll get to that work, it just might not be between eight and five. But I’ll stay connected throughout the day and continue to do my work. It’s adjusting to the way people work in another dimension of time.

Rick Deans:

With these new generations coming on online within the workforce, are you seeing, Matt, an expectation that the company that they’re going to go to work for has something a step or two above Excel spreadsheets and do it yourself applications? Is there an expectation that organizations will be using commercially off the shelf software for a lot of these operations?

Matt Gramblicka:

Absolutely. I think user experience is a big one. It used to be, it needs to be on a computer on a big screen, so I can see everything. Then it was portable on a tablet. What we’re hearing now that there’s an entire generation of workers out there when we’re doing our recruiting and onboarding, for example, they don’t have a computer. All they have is a phone. If they can’t do what you’re asking them to do from a phone, it’s going to be very difficult and it’s maybe puts you behind a competitor that’s there already and has that capability.

Rick Deans:

I want to do a shout out to one of our audience members who put something very interesting in the chat. And that is, as we talk about construction not growing exponentially in terms of efficiency as compared to other industries, one of the things that I’m super proud of to be part of this industry is that increased focus on safety and the measurement of safety, the acknowledgement of safety, the importance of safety, all of those things have grown exponentially over that point of time. And one of our audience members brought that up in the chat. Any insights there, Matt, in terms of the dedication to safety? I know Graham’s committed to a culture of safety.

Matt Gramblicka:

Yeah. And if we think back to the first slide, there were the productivity of construction went down from say the 60s to current times. I think a lot of that was the advancement of safety, which has been phenomenal. I think it’s job one, number one is everybody goes home at the end of the day. That’s what the focus should be and the criteria should be. Where we’ve maybe gone a little too far there is that we’ve added a lot of paperwork and responsibilities, accountabilities onto the project site where are their technologies that we could use to keep the project safe, give the back office the information they need to know that people are being safe and allow that field to focus on safe construction execution. Yeah, I think there’s definitely opportunities there. We’re just in the middle of finding those pieces and lessening that road on the frontline workers, for sure.

Rick Deans:

I just saw that come across the chat and I wanted to mention that. That was a good observation.

Matt Gramblicka:

Mm-Hmm <affirmative>.

Rick Deans:

Well, let’s talk then about maybe some best practices when we do introduce technology to what could potentially be seen as a hesitant workforce. And I wanted to circle back on one thing, Matt, and maybe this next slide will help us get an appreciation for that, at least in terms of Graham’s project profile. I hear a lot in the industry that, if you’re going to do a mega project, if going to be doing something for a billion dollars or more, several hundred million, you’re going to need tools. You’re going to need an IT infrastructure. But maybe we can help dispel that a little bit. I’m looking at a cross section, I guess, of Graham’s project size is, maybe you can help us navigate this a little bit. It looks like most of your projects are within that sweet spot of 50 million and less. Can you talk about that a little bit, Matt, and maybe some of the challenges associated with implementing technology on a mega project versus maybe a high volume of lower revenue projects?

Matt Gramblicka:

Yeah, absolutely. You’re right. The bulk is in that less than 50 million as far as quantity comes. And if we looked at revenues, what is the split? I don’t have that in front of me. But obviously, the bigger projects mean more revenue, more complexity, more cost. Implementing digital technologies on larger projects is a must. You have to do it just to keep track of where everything is to make sure that you’ve got all the i’s dotted, t’s crossed, communication with all stakeholders across a project. Very key. If you look at that and extend that though, and I mentioned it earlier, what are the repeatable things that we can do in our business that build up that muscle memory, so to speak of, this is how you take care documentation on a project, this is how you plan your work, this is how you execute it, this is how you track that documented cost control, good practices for change orders, making sure your communication with your owner is up to speed?

Matt Gramblicka:

You have to implement those same tools at the smaller end of the project scale. But there’s a cost to doing that. Or at least there’s a perceived cost of, well, I can’t afford to add two or three people to my project to do that. That’s where taking an enterprise approach to it where we template a lot of the setup of a project, for example, to get that project up and running fast so that when they’re storing a document on a project it’s automatic. It’s not, I need a full-time document controller to take care of this. Those are the types of things that we feel anyways will give us a competitive advantage that those people working on those projects there build up those good habits so that when we go to the larger projects and add them to that, they know what needs to be done and what the process and the tools are. And they’re not trying to learn that on the fly. That’s [crosstalk 00:18:48].

Rick Deans:

And you mentioned maybe some of your smaller projects are where you start a lot of your project management team. There is an expectation they are going to grow to those larger projects and they can take some of that operational discipline that they’re learning on some of these smaller projects to those larger projects as well, Matt.

Matt Gramblicka:

Yeah.

Rick Deans:

[crosstalk 00:19:07] Well, let’s dig into some of the do’s and don’t and some of the best practices. Knowing what you know now, if you were having this discussion with a peer that’s just embarking on their digital transformation. Let’s maybe talk through some of these do’s and don’ts, and maybe you can add some of your own perspective, maybe even some anecdotal situations about how some of these do’s and don’ts helped, or maybe didn’t help you on your journey.

Matt Gramblicka:

Well, and just to be clear, I think the title is, successful digital transformation or successful model. We’re working on that model. We haven’t got figured out and a lot of this is just learnings and we’re continuing to learn. There’s still challenges in everything we do. It’s if fair [crosstalk 00:20:01].

Rick Deans:

It’s an unfinished story.

Matt Gramblicka:

If anyone thought we had it all figured out they were wrong.

Rick Deans:

[crosstalk 00:20:08] At least you’re taking steps to move in that direction. Yeah.

Matt Gramblicka:

Absolutely. Number one, though, that commitment from the top is so key right from the executive saying, yes, we’re going to invest in this. We are going to commit to this. This is the way we’re going to do it going forward. We don’t want to hear about alternatives, or I use this tool at a different company, and so I want it here. It’s like, no, we’re taking care of the process first to solve the business problem. And here’s the tool we’re going to use to support that. That commitment from the top is key. And then the next thing with that is the commitment from each of the business units to say, we’re going to adopt this within our business. And I’ll flip over to the don’t side there for a minute.

Matt Gramblicka:

And number two, don’t chase the resistors, you’re going to have people that just don’t want to change. They won’t touch a solution if it’s not perfect in their minds, and there’s no such thing. But what will happen is, as you start with the groups that want to see change are craving a better way, you’ll get some momentum. And then water cooler talk will spread that where people have success with it. Then others will feel left behind a bit and will start to look for opportunities where they can jump on the adoption bandwagon.

Matt Gramblicka:

Go back to the do side there, do prepare for a bumpy ride. It’s hard. We started our InEight implementation with plan and progress a couple of years ago. And it’s probably been a year and a half, two year journey now where finally, every project that starts will use that solution. It’s not something that you can get done in two months. It’s definitely a journey. You have to stay committed to it. And you have to find small pockets of value as you go along. And I guess, that’s on the don’t side there is, don’t wait until the solution is perfect. Get value as you go. And that was what we did with the approach of using plan and progress. We haven’t implemented the full suite just yet for all projects, but we knew we could get value out of having digital planning and time capture on sites. That’s where we started.

Rick Deans:

Well, I like that, don’t wait until the solution is perfect, because what it allows for it allows for some feedback cycles. You can introduce a tool and you can come back and you can weave in some of that real world feedback that you’re getting into either a configuration issue, or maybe it’s a workflow issue, or maybe it’s a data issue, but you leave yourself open for making those incremental improvements and working toward a state of continuous improvement rather than, we went up in some ivory tower and we figured this all out, and now we’re going to roll it out to you folks in the field.

Matt Gramblicka:

Yeah, absolutely. And piloting is a piece of that. Pick a few projects where the size of the project is right. You’ve got the right attitude of the workers on there, knowing that whatever you’re asking them to do you want them to do extra, to test out a whole piece of a solution to see if there’s value or what pieces maybe we aren’t going to adopt. You’re right, there is definitely value in finding how people are going to use it before you try and tell 1000 people to use it a certain way. Maybe that isn’t the best way. And you only find that out by field hands on experience.

Rick Deans:

You’ve got an interesting bullet point here on the left number five, building experience in the business. Can you talk a little bit about that and maybe some of the personas or some of the personalities that you seek out when you’re really looking for adoption within the business to champion some of these tools?

Matt Gramblicka:

For sure, building that expertise in the business. I come from IT, so we get a lot of flack of you’re just trying to change tools and looking for the Wizzy Bangy stuff. Not really where I come from, it’s about solving the business problem first, making sure that the tool and the process is efficient and helps the business be better at what they need to do. That expertise in the business is about ownership. We try to focus, especially on the IT side of looking at the requirements, making sure we configure design tests, etc, the best solution for that. But we don’t want to keep training new people as they come on board. That’s up to that business to use that adopted and get the value out of it and continue to be accountable for getting the value out of that solution. That’s what that is meant.

Matt Gramblicka:

And it’s the same old story is you get that expertise there. If someone in the field has an issue, they have someone beside them that’s lifted before. As we’ve gone through a few projects now, we’re starting to get to the second and third project where people have been using a new solution and we can pair them with someone who’s maybe brand new and hasn’t had a project on that solution before, and it just expands that knowledge network. And the hope is that through osmosis, but through hands on, we get a lot of cross training and collaboration through that. That’s what that’s really meant.

Rick Deans:

You’re obviously much closer to this than we as a software provider are. But one of the things that we certainly see as we do these implementations is we do these rollouts. There’s a point at which our customer does reach that critical mass, we’ll call it, where rather than putting a phone call into us, as the solution provider, they’re reaching out to their peers as you say, someone who’s maybe rolled off a different project. And maybe the questions aren’t so much, what buttons do I click in which order and how is that field calculated? It’s more along the lines of, in the real world, how did you really use this? What were some of the things you were tracking and how were those metrics put together? Do you see that just natively happen or are there things that you guys are doing as an organization to ensure that, that critical mass happens earlier rather than later and you’re leaving less of that to chance during these implementations?

Matt Gramblicka:

Yeah. It’s going back to that same point there, building expertise in the business. We’ve brought a lot of operational experience to our initiative team. They’re in their work in the tool, learning how it works, helping build the training and documented and standards and guidelines for the tools and the process. And then taking that back to their business and implementing it and being the go-to for that first line of, hey, how does this work? Starting there. What is interesting when I speak to plan and progress, very fierce times through it, the few reiterations are, how do I use this tool? And I’m just using it to get my time in. Okay. That’s great. But that isn’t really the whole point of it, the whole point is, is how do you plan your work and then execute your work to make sure that you’re meeting productivity and getting value?

Matt Gramblicka:

And now we’re starting to see that conversation shift to, we got some information here, maybe if we plan our work differently, we can actually construct this more efficiently. The tool is forcing the right conversations that we were meant to have. And now we’re into that. How do we build better? Which is cool. It’s a really neat thing. And you’re right, it takes off organically once people get that foundational knowledge of the new process.

Rick Deans:

I also want to talk about something that’s near and dear to my heart as someone that’s participated in dozens, if not hundreds of these implementations. And that is, and you mentioned it, Matt, that’s why I want to circle back to it. I’ve always told our customers, during this process, I want people involved that really understand the business and that you’re hesitant to take off their day to day responsibilities and jobs to work on this project because there is a tendency to look around the office and see who’s available and give them the keys to these new initiatives. And sometimes that works out great. But other times, you give me people that are really, really entrenched in understanding how the business operates and can make decisions.

Rick Deans:

And that just pays for itself over and over and over and over again, because especially as we’re rolling out a tool, and you mentioned people maybe with a resistant attitude, you’ve got people within your organization that can stand up. And this goes to one of your other bullet points, which is they’re going to actually own this solution say, no, this is the reason why we’ve configured it that way. This is the reason why that data looks that way. And for reasons, X, Y, and Z. Can you talk to that a little bit and maybe your own journey? What profiles of individuals were you looking for to really help champion some of these solutions?

Matt Gramblicka:

Yeah. It’s fascinating because you need help from all levels within the organization. We talked about the leadership from the very top, which we have, we have the buy-in, we have the support, we have the backing, right to the board kind of thing. We’ve got the business leadership in each of the business units, knowing that, okay, yeah, I have got to get my team ready to do this. And a lot of our project team has been built from a lot of those, well, I’ll call them the Gen Y, Gen Z that have lived this on projects.

Matt Gramblicka:

They were the ones dealing with the old manual process spreadsheets, et cetera, saying, there’s got to be a better way to do this. And they’re in here and we’ve got some smart people working on this. And we’re very lucky that we’ve got that level of talent and critical thinking which is really cool and fun to see. And they’ve lived it on a project so they know what will work and then they can also go out there and test it and try it on different types of projects. Like I said, it’s all levels and all different skill sets that you need to make this work.

Rick Deans:

Yeah. That’s super important. And then I appreciate you elaborating on that. You’ve got a couple more here managing expectations. I would imagine someone in your role, that’s probably a 360 degree management of expectations. Like you say, that you’ve got buy-in all the way up to the board level. You’ve got the business unit leaders. You’ve got people in the field. Help me understand some of the things that you’ve done to manage expectations, both up to food chain and out into the project world on some of these initiatives?

Matt Gramblicka:

Yeah. You said 360 degrees. And I was thinking in my head, and 365 days a year. It’s constant. It’s really not overselling what you’re trying to do. And if you recall that we’re trying to not do everything at once. We’re looking at minimum viable products in certain cases or processes that cover off 80% of what a project might need to do. It’s just being very clear about what the change is going to do for them, what they will have to continue to do, either manually or outside of a system, or have an extra step in a process but why they have to do that. And helping show them that there’s value for them in what you’re asking them to change and do.

Matt Gramblicka:

It’s not fair to continue asking projects to do stuff that only benefits the back office. If we’re asking them to collect stats and information on things that doesn’t make them better, then there’s no point to it. That’s what I mean by those expectations. And by saying that, it’s also managing the expectation of those corporate groups and corporate functions that are looking for that information. There has to be a little bit of trust there too. We will get that information by leveraging a new process and a new tool to get the data that they’re going to collect from just doing their jobs. And we will get that information you need in a different way. But we’ll still be able to look at the business, and hopefully, do all of those things more efficiently. You’re right, there’s both sides of the fence. There’s up, there’s down, there sideways. It’s going to push and extend into sub trade our clients, the expectations that we’re going to have of them to interact with us through new processes and tools as well.

Rick Deans:

And clearly tying all this together is that element of communications. And I can’t tell you again, from my perspective, going out into an organization, if people understand, and I realize that maybe 80% of the audience, this example won’t resonate with. But there used to be these indoor shopping facilities called malls. And you would walk into one of the entrances of the mall and they would have a big directory there. And the most important part I thought of that directory was the little symbol that said you are here. And that gave you a perspective as to all the things that were available and then how close or how far away they were. And I’ve seen organizations do similar roadmaps with their technology rollouts.

Rick Deans:

And one of the first things that they address is, why on the world are we doing this? Because if I come to work and my spreadsheet or this access database that I built, if it supports my day to day needs, that’s great. But what we find out is organizationally, those things fall down pretty quickly. People can’t share the day data, people can’t leverage it, et cetera. Help me understand maybe some of the communications protocols or some of the initiatives that you guys took just to make sure people understood, hey, why are we moving in this direction? And what are some of the milestones, or what are some of the nearby shops that we can expect to see as we embark on our journey through digital transformation?

Matt Gramblicka:

Yeah. There’s a lot of things that come to mind when you ask about that. The communication was really, really, we looked at a next generation set of tools and landed with InEight for our construction site, based on the fact that we had a custom solution built in-house that we just couldn’t keep up anymore. Technology was out a date. We would’ve had to start fresh anyway. And just the requirements, I guess, for some of those larger projects, it wasn’t able to handle all of that. When we first started with toolbox though, 20 plus years ago, there wasn’t a lot of technology in place. I think construction is ripe. There’s a lot of available tools now. Technology that allows you to get there a little bit quicker.

Matt Gramblicka:

The communication to the business was, we have to do this to be better at what we’re doing to try and continue to expand and grow. And in order to do that, we’ve got to take on pro projects that are maybe in new geographics and we need to attract and retain talent that is willing to move to those places. We’re going to be moving people around and they’re going to be coming from different projects. And if everybody’s using a different sense of tool or different set of tools, you’re getting to a project site and learning how everything is done instead of what you need to do. The sales pitch here is, you go to a project and you can just figure out what needs to be done and you know how to do it, because it’s done the same on most projects.

Rick Deans:

As one of our other customers likes to say, the only new information they need is that new project number, when they roll onto a new project.

Matt Gramblicka:

Yeah, for the most part. There’s also with the different industries, we serve different ways of constructing. In some cases it’s more construction management with a lot of subcontracting. And in other cases, it’s a lot more self perform. We recognize that in that there’s going to be some variability in what those processes look like. That’s another piece of it is communicating that, we’re not asking you to document things down to this level of detail. We need you to be at a bit higher level, but you need to be able to manage a lot more across, potentially. We’re definitely making sure that’s part of our communication as well.

Rick Deans:

And I know you started off the last section of our discussion by saying, hey, well, this is an unfinished story. This is a journey in progress. But by now, you’re starting to see some data come in and I thought what you mention about some of the field execution management tools, being able to collect not only time and progress quantities, but helping people do a better job of planning. Now that you’re starting to get some data and the slide is talking about vast amounts of data leading to, potentially, better and more timely decisions, are you starting to see that happen organically? Because there is some good data that people don’t have to necessarily stop what they’re doing and go on a research project to collect that data is there for them to interrogate. Are you starting to see that a little bit it? And maybe tell us a bit about that.

Matt Gramblicka:

I think we’re getting the start of it. It’s going to take a bit of time to collect that information. Part of it is also, as I mentioned, when you’re planning things whether you categorize things properly when you’re planning it so that you can then in a future project, look at those categories and say, okay, that’s how we did those ones, we should be able to leverage that information. To me, that is the most exciting thing that our industry can tap into is, historical data on productivity and things like that. And what fascinates me with the analytics side of it is, what are those correlating factors essentially that tell you whether you’re going to be, what could you do to be more efficient? Whether that’s the way you lay out your yard, whether it’s how you schedule the trades back to back, et cetera. I think there’s so much that we can learn from the information we’re collecting. And I think we’re just at the start of it. I think that’ll be the next piece of our journey once we get the full crawl walk run. And we’re still crawling and we’ve got to get every project walking and then we’ll really start running.

Rick Deans:

No, that’s an excellent point. We’ve had other customers say that, and you’ve touched on this a couple of times, just through the course of people doing their jobs and collecting the data and having the data available. It’s not a stack of time sheets that are sitting on the dashboard of a pickup truck until the end of the day where someone’s going to drop them off on a clerk’s desk, where they’re going to be manually typed into a system and that’s available. People can realize that. And one of the things that I’ve certainly seen too, and you mentioned this, is there a better way to do that?

Rick Deans:

One of the things I’ve certainly noticed in my 20, some odd years of working with construction firms is that crews, especially folks in the field, they’re very competitive. They want to do a good job. They want their people to go home safely. They really want to give their best effort. And sometimes when we see the results of other crews working on similar projects, maybe in the same area, or maybe in a different place, I think that motivates people. It’s no longer these hidden numbers. It’s, hey, what were your unit costs? And maybe it causes someone to pick up the phone and say, hey, it looks like you’re hitting some really great metrics out there. What are some of the things that you’ve learned that you can share? Are you seeing that start to happen at all within your organization?

Matt Gramblicka:

I think we are a little bit, but it’s within a group right now. There’s definitely that. Well, yeah, we do different work, so we can’t trust what those guys that are doing. We’re going to try and find ways to leverage that and let people know that there are different ways of doing constructing or maybe it’s pouring concrete or whatever that is, but there’s different ways to be productive. And you’re right, if someone’s been successful at it, what is that secret sauce in that formula? How did you guys do it? And let’s have those conversations. Like I said, we’re very much at the beginning of that and we got to get the habits built into everybody and then they can have a common tool, a process based for those conversations.

Rick Deans:

That’s interesting. I mean, just in my own world, you mentioned COVID earlier. Pre COVID, we wouldn’t think twice about doing a three-day workshop with a client, hopping on a plane, a day out, a day back, three days with the customer, burn a whole week. And I don’t mean that in a bad way, but we’ve found ways to be much more efficient and to manage those workshops. And you mentioned this earlier, do we need all these staff onsite? Are there things they can do remotely? And we’re starting to see a lot of returns off of that as well. Just questioning, is this absolutely necessary or are there other ways of doing this? Again, looking at the path forward, what are some of the things that you would encourage our audience to maybe measure or focus on? I know there are some traditional metrics that have typically been looked at, but what are some of the suggestions that you might make to somebody in the audience today that’s either beginning or contemplating to begin a digital transformation journey, Matt?

Matt Gramblicka:

We’re just starting. Yeah, I think it’s, like I said earlier, look for the things that are repeatable within your business where there’s maybe a lot of manual effort and manual-based processes to do something. And look at that as an opportunity to do one thing the same way in a lot of projects. And then that’s the other thing. If you’ve got a bunch of disparity in the way things are done, maybe that’s a way to eliminate some of the waste that you have going on with maybe multiple products and/or a lot of efforts spent training people on different ways of doing things. Try and find that common element and do things at least one way the same way across the board.

Matt Gramblicka:

That’s probably the biggest thing. Make sure that that executive sponsorship is there. Don’t push things on to people that aren’t ready for it. You have to get people ready. You’ll spend more time and effort chasing people that don’t want to do things than you will with a good customer that keeps pulling and asking for more things. Those are probably a few tricks, I guess, that we’ve started. Well, we finally caught on that if you have a good customer, keep going to them.

Rick Deans:

Go for those easy wins that low-hanging fruit, it’s out there and then build from there.

Matt Gramblicka:

[crosstalk 00:45:07] Mm-hmm (affirmative). Well, it builds your advertising. It’s free advertising. When someone out there is doing really well with it and loves it, they’re going to tell everybody else just like when someone needs it and they’re struggling with it, they’re going to tell everyone else too.

Rick Deans:

Yeah. [crosstalk 00:45:27] Well I mentioned it earlier. Go ahead, please.

Matt Gramblicka:

Well, and the other thing I was going to say is, it’s add value back to the field and operations. There has to be something in it for them. And it has to make their job easier so they can focus on construction and not worry about all the other stuff. Automate where you can, digitize and make things a lot simpler so information is readily available when they need it.

Rick Deans:

It’s perfect. And Derrick, I’m not sure if you’re seeing as much activity in the chat as I’m seeing. Maybe there’s an opportunity to open this up for some of the questions that have come in from our audience member.

Derrick Teal:

To remind everybody in the audience that we’d love your feedback. Please take a few moments to complete our webinars survey, and you can see that on your screen now, I believe, or you’ll be redirected to take a look at it at the end of the presentation. Yes, as for the questions, you marked this one too. And it was one that I was looking at, and it is, the industry focuses a lot around the top executives rolling out the programs and pushing adoption. But how would a newer and younger employee from the Gen Z front pose that change to their employer?

Rick Deans:

You want to talk about that one, Matt?

Matt Gramblicka:

I’ll try. Don’t be afraid to stand up and say something. That’s what I would say. Don’t just sit in silence and do things the old way without challenging it. And hopefully, you’re working in an environment where it’s safe to do so, and to challenge the way we do things and push for doing things differently. The executive buy-in and push is more about setting the direction for the company, but that adoption, it’s really… And we’re finding the same thing is our middle management might be more resistant because they recognize that.

Matt Gramblicka:

For example, if you’re putting a new estimating solution in, that’s disruptive to your business, and maybe you can’t do as many estimates, maybe there’s a lot of testing and risk avoidance you want to take there to make sure that you’re generating a number that you’re going to submit on a project. You want to make sure it’s right. And they know that, that’s expensive. It’s going to hinder the productivity in the short-term, but there’s a lot of Gen Z, et cetera, tech savvy type people that are open and willing to try new things. And so just stand up, be hurts and volunteer for things. I’d like to try that out. I think that’s how you get through and that we get good momentum. That’s what I would say to that.

Rick Deans:

Yeah. And the only thing I would add to that, and you really touched on this, Matt, is don’t discount the fact that if you’re relatively new to the industry or new to an organization, on some level, that organization is probably relying on you as a set of fresh eyes and fresh ears. I think it’s entirely appropriate to stand up and say, hey, I’m aware of some opportunities where maybe we can increase some of the sufficiency through the adoption of some of these tools. I think organizations are very interested in that feedback. They might not explicitly solicit it, but I think if it’s done properly, they’re going to appreciate it for sure.

Derrick Teal:

And this question, the first time I read it, it seemed like, okay, I’m learning something new and it pushes out something old, but after taking a look at it, that’s not the take I’m getting on this. It is about, I think time management. And is there a risk that focusing on digital tools competes with other technical knowledge demands for developing employees?

Matt Gramblicka:

Technical knowledge, meaning from a construction sense?

Derrick Teal:

I believe so.

Matt Gramblicka:

Is that what the question is? Is that how you’re interpreting that?

Derrick Teal:

Yes.

Matt Gramblicka:

Yes, absolutely. And I think, it re-emphasize the point I was trying to make earlier is that as we’re rolling out technical pieces, yes, there’s going to be some disruption as people learn a new way of doing things, but it should not add to the workload. It should take away. It should take away the paperwork that they have to fill out or the forms they have to sign and fill out and send a corporate, all those types of things. And it’ll allow them to focus on construction methodology. And let’s talk about that for a minute. There’s newer and better ways to do construction that is outside of trying to implement a digital process or digital tools. And I think that there should be a focus put on that. Is there a technology that can actually support construction? Yes. And let’s free up that frontline workers so they can actually look at those things and be better and more efficient and more safe at what they’re doing.

Rick Deans:

I’m going to chime in on this too. I’m going to bring up a slide we looked at earlier, and this is, at least within Graham, this is the breakdown of the demographics. And in doing these workshops over the years, it’s really interesting. The people toward the right end of the scale on this screen, super sharp with tools, super sharp on the keyboard. They know where to click. They know where to point. They really understand technology. Many of these folks have never lived in a house that didn’t have tablets and PCs and smartphones. And then the people on the left end of the screen, those are typically the ones that really, really understand the work and understand the business piece of it.

Rick Deans:

And what we’ve found to be super successful is pairing those individuals up. Taking someone with all that great field knowledge, maybe 20, 30 years of field experience with one of these newer folks. And then you see that transfer of knowledge occur. The old vet from the field can talk to the younger person and say, these are the ways we would do it. This is the spread of equipment we would use. You got to do it this way. Did you think about that? Where the younger person might be able to share some of the technology skills that they’ve developed over their careers as well. That’s something that we’ve certainly seen, and we always strive for that. Let’s try that. We’re not going to replace anybody’s technical knowledge. What we’re trying to do is institutionalize it and make it more organizationally available, I guess, is another way of saying that.

Derrick Teal:

And this question’s asking, Matt, how are you handling accountability for implementation? Organic buy-in is great, what are you doing about the holdouts? They appear as favorites to the rest of the employees who are making the effort to learn change implement?

Matt Gramblicka:

Yeah. There’s two parts to that. One, I think what we’re seeing is that the groups that are adopting are getting value, and I think that will quickly make them the favorites as they get better at what they do. Obviously, more efficient you are that adds to the bottom line and you are more successful in building on projects. That’s a big piece of it. The other thing that we’re doing on the accountability side is imposing deadlines. You have to do it by this date, or maybe there’s, we’ll support the old process in the short term, but as of this date, that process goes away and you have to be on board with the new one. Wait as long as you like, but you’re going to have less time to actually get switched over and it’ll be more disruptive to your team by doing so. That’s some of the things we’re trying to do.

Derrick Teal:

You’re going to chime in, Rich, or are you good?

Rick Deans:

[crosstalk 00:53:20] I am good.

Derrick Teal:

Way easier said than done. We talked about internal implementation, but what about on the external side? How are you managing client expectations when you get these new tools? How does that come into play?

Matt Gramblicka:

Yeah, it’s a journey. That’s a really good question. It’s very difficult to manage, but it just means you have to keep that communication line open with your clients. We’re asking them to do things differently, especially with the implementation of any document where we’re asking them to sign off on things electronically, review things online, et cetera. We have to keep that communication line open, manage those expectations, but also show them that by doing this and by us implementing these tools, here’s the value they’re going to get back out of it. When you work on a project with us, you’re going to get a bill that looks like this. You’re going to have change orders that look like this. You’re going to log in here to get documentation. And that’s how you’re going to do it.

Matt Gramblicka:

When you go to the next project with us, you’re going to see the same things. It’s also that consistency of the product that we’re offering them. And we’re hoping that by being consistent, they’re going to see that as a value add, and that’s going to want them to work with us in the future, assuming that, obviously, you have to do a good job first, but knowing what they’re going to get out of you and how that works is hopefully a differentiator for us.

Rick Deans:

It’s your 360 degree management of expectations, but on a 3D Chess level, because you’re also managing expectations outside of your organization as well, it sounds like.

Matt Gramblicka:

Yeah. And I mean, if you really want to take where we’re trying to get to is you’re creating a digital twin that you’re handing over to them and say, here’s your building. You can manage it and run it in this way. And if you need to know what door knobs are on that door, you can click on it and get that information. You can find out who installed it, who inspected it, what the warranty is on it, et cetera. That’s the dream, is to hand over something like that to our clients.

Derrick Teal:

And this question is interesting, and it has to do with the rapid advancement of tools in construction. And how do you handle the risk and legality of adding things like drones and other tools like that and bringing those into the mix?

Matt Gramblicka:

Yeah. That’s a good question because jurisdiction is different everywhere. You have to understand what’s going on locally. And a lot of stuff like drones, for example, is really done by each of our business units. We haven’t got a dedicated drone group within the company that takes care of that. But we do have a community that works together to understand how to do those things and how we can get value out of them. That’s also one of our approaches is, is that a business can investigate something and organically hopefully gain some knowledge and insights on how to do those things and how to get some value out of it on a project scale or a business unit scale before we try to implement something, which is obviously a lot more effort and change required to do it across the enterprise. I think in that case, the answer is really, just one-off in pockets as it comes up

Derrick Teal:

I have habit of asking big questions at the end. What does your organization planning effort look like for a digital advancement initiative?

Matt Gramblicka:

Yeah. We have a major initiative right now to do the implementation of the InEight suite. There’s a team dedicated to that. Outside of that though, we will look at any type of improvement to a process or tool, build a business case around it. Look at resourcing timing, planning, budget, et cetera. Figuring out what all the scope and requirements are for that, what the integration touch points are with existing processes and tools. Build a team, put that together.

Matt Gramblicka:

Annually, we’ll run that through our executive to say, here’s the journey we’re on, here’s the pieces we need to get us to that, fulfilling those processes from start to finish from a higher scale. In our business, it’s really about labor equipment material, and sub-trades. So if we’re taking care of those things on our projects, the rest of it follows from there. That’s really where a lot of our initiatives are focused around. We’ve got a bunch of people initiatives to focus on the labor. We’ve got some equivalent stuff to focus on that materials on the purchasing side and subcontracting to take care of a little bit a higher level need for the legal side of it, the execution side of it.

Derrick Teal:

All right.

Matt Gramblicka:

It’s a lot of effort, I guess. The answer could have been a lot.

Derrick Teal:

Fair enough. Unfortunately, that’s going to be all the time we have for questions today. I hope everybody will join me in thanking, Rick Deans, and Matt Gramblicka, as well as our sponsor InEight. And if you have any additional questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to click the, “Email Us”, button on your console. And we’ll share those questions with our presenters so they can respond to you. And if you haven’t had a chance to complete that survey, you’ll be redirected to it at the end. And we look forward to hearing how to make our programs work better for you. And then please visit enr.com/webinars for the archive of this presentation to share with your colleagues, as well as information about our upcoming events and make sure to tune back in for tomorrow’s webinar, applying variable refrigerant flow systems in cold climate applications that is going to air at 2:00 PM Eastern. And thanks again for trusting us with your time. And have a great day.

Matt Gramblicka:

Thanks.